State Supreme Court upholds billions of dollars in Sound Transit funding

SEATTLE (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court has upheld big car tab increases in the Puget Sound area, a decision that preserves billions of dollars in voter-approved money earmarked for light trail and other projects.

Seven people filed the lawsuit to overturn a rate increase by Sound Transit. Voters in 2016 approved the rate hike to fund the Sound Transit 3 expansion project that will build 62 miles of new light rail from Everett to Tacoma and from Seattle to the Eastside.

The lawsuit sought a refund of millions of dollars in car registration fees collected through the increase to help pay for the $54 billion expansion.

In a 7 to 2 decision Thursday, the high court justices found that the motor vehicle excise tax was constitutional.

This decision is separate from the I-976 case that is currently making its way through the courts. Voters in November 2019 approved a measure by activist Tim Eyman that limits annual car tab fees to $30. Several agencies filed a lawsuit challenging the voter-approved initiative, but a judge this week rejected most of the challenges and said a coalition of Washington cities had failed to carry the heavy burden of demonstrating that the $30 car tab measure was unconstitutional on most of their claims.

But the $30 car tabs have not taken effect yet, as the judge has not yet ruled on two other issues: whether the initiative unlawfully impairs the contracting authority of the city of Burien, and on whether a requirement that car valuations be based on Kelley Blue Book values illegally favors a private company.

Watch the latest on the current I-976 battle below: